Brands leading the way in positive portrayal of women

Brands promoting femisim

Is sexism in advertising diminishing?

Getty Images released a statistic this week citing that search terms for “empowered women” has increased by over 700% in the last year, which is showing the seismic shift towards brands portraying women in a more positive, non discriminatory, non sexist manner. Hurrah!

This is wonderful news, as the advertising industry has typically been the straggler to the feminism movement party, which in the last number of years has become more than a movement, it has become popular culture. Since the beginning of adland, women have been portrayed as the stereotypical, stay-at-home mumsie, who just won’t stop until that grass stain is out of little Timmy’s shorts, and can’t sleep at night unless her kitchen counters are sparkling.

To date women have been portrayed as the perfect housewife, mum and all round best damn stain remover, super heroine in the world, because that is all that matters to them. And honestly, it’s boring. Women are not defined by how clean their kitchen is or how clean their kids shorts are and really, these campaigns are condescending, out of touch and just plain insulting to the modern women.

When I was growing up my mum worked and took care of the house – 30 years ago! Recently my sister has had her second baby and is about to head back to work and out of all of my friends who have children, I can’t think of one who hasn’t gone back to work. Their husbands pick up the kids, change the nappies and cook dinner just as much as they do. They share the chores… together. They are feminists. They no longer fit into the gender defined stereotypical roles within their house. So why are these brands still advertising and condescending to women in ways that brings us back to the archaic ways of the past?

Adaptable brands

The best brands in the world intrinsically know their audience, and have built the brand around them. So when the audience needs’ change, when society changes, the brand adapts accordingly to remain relevant to them. This is fundamental for building a brand with longevity.

Beyonce feminism

So that’s stereotypical housewife woman. That’s just one half of the battle.

Next up is our old faithful friend… sex sells

Sex sells


Selling Sex to sell burgers.

If it’s not superhero mum, on the other end of the spectrum, it’s a hot piece of ass, objectifying women to appeal to men, because since the dawn of time, sex sells. But for me this is getting pretty boring and unimaginative and just bizarre.

Remember Paris Hilton’s Carl Jnr’s Burger campaign? I’m confident she’s never actually swallowed a Carl Jnr’s Burger. Wow!



Tom Ford sells sex

“If you wear this aftershave, the ‘perfect woman’ will strip naked for you”, is what this image says to me. Tom is all about sex.

Tom Ford Sexism

Brands leading the conversation in 2016

But as yesterday was International Women’s Day, I wanted to have a look at brands that were leading the charge and consciously changing the sentiment towards women in advertising, taking them down from that stereotypical unattainable, perfect, babin’ pedestal and showing real women, with real issues, powerful strength, resilience and women that we can all aspire to be like, whether you’re a man or a woman.

Van Houtan Cocoa: Mother’s Smile

This Japanese cocoa brand present a beautiful take on life of a working mum, featuring a raw and honest portrayal of the daily grind for these women, whose collective common fear is that they are not doing enough for their kids, because of their work commitments. The video breaks down the model of the “perfect mum” in a really refreshing and emotive way, reassuring mums that they are doing a brilliant job and all that their kids need is love! Pass the tissues for this one!


Neutrogena know’s what makes a woman beautiful

Neutrogena have redefined what makes a woman beautiful and celebrates women who are chasing their dreams and pursuing their full potential rather than focussing on their physical attributes. This is a dramatic shift from an industry so charged with unattainable perfection.

Underarmour Rule Yourself

This sports wear brand in the US, showcases the strength, physicality, determination and grit of the US women’s gymnastics team. “It’s what you do in the dark that puts you in the light.”


I’m excited about what’s to come and see 2016 as being a pivotal year for the stragglers to follow suit and remove sexism from advertising and branding.

Gemma Tedford 

Director of Brand Projects and Feminist

Pics courtesy of Carl Jnr’s Burgers, Tom Ford, Beyonce, Under Armour, Neutrogena, Van Houtan Cocoa


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